Starlight Cascade Observatory Construction
Page Created: 2003 September 03
Page Last Updated: 2005 October 24
Photo album *
Parts List *
2003 September 03
The observatory was originally thought to be constructed out of an old 9'x12' floor
from an old shed, built east of the house this summer. Events got in the way and
the planned fence extention, which the observatory would fit inside,
didn't happen. So instead, Plan B came about where we
would build a temporary observatory over top of
our existing observing deck and piers.
We bought an 8'x10' metal shed from Canadian Tire on sale for about $400.
Then we expanded the existing 5'x10' deck to 8'x10' and started assembling the shed.
The piers were originally centred on a 5'x10' deck with not a lot of clearance,
but the original design size was limited to 10' lumber that we could carry on our vehicle.
We may have to move the shed a bit to get the piers a little more centered.
The walls went up ok, but are not strong enough to support a rolloff roof.
So then we designed a wooden internal frame to support the rolloff roof using 2"x4"
non pressure treated lumber.
The roof was originally designed to mount to the walls of the shed, but since
we wanted it removable, we needed to build a base support for the roof. Luckily
the shed kit came with a floor frame that we were not using, so we assembled the floor
base and started building the roof section on top of it.
With the roof frame complete, we tested it for weight and rigidity. It was quite light
and fairly rigid. Once the roof panels were assembled it should be more rigid and definitely
2003 September 09
The roof was completed but we quickly determined that even then the bottom frame of the
roof bent when it overhung in the half open position... so rails need to be
added outside of the walls to support the roof.
These will be going in tonight. Two 4"x4" posts with 2"x6" runners level with the existing
wall top and 2"x4" supports off the 4"x4" post (pictures to follow).
In addition, we will be adding eight 1" square teflon pads for the roof section to
move on as currently it is a few screw heads gouging
into the 1"x4" track and a little bit of the alumnimum frame itself.
2003 Sept 11
We moved the entire shed one foot to the south east as the piers were in fact too close
to the walls. Four of the floor boards were removed (they were
screwed in, not nailed), the shed was pushed very slowly over, then the four floorboards
were put back in. We then releveled the floor & frame, since we were on a slope,
the level changed quite a bit. Once levelled, we adjusted the position of the shed
so as the floorboards would not touch the piers.
To stop weather from coming directly in through the roof/wall gap, we added a 1"x2" strip to
the base of the roof frame and tacked onto that a 1"x4" skirt. This has the added
benefit of keeping the roof "ontrack" when moving down the rail.
2003 September 12
We started construction of the external runners for the roof. Using a 4"x4"
pressure treated post and deck blocks, we added a 2"x6"x8' piece
of wood to act as the main track runner and added two 2"x4" braces. The 4"x4"
post was cut and chiseled out to provide a better base for the runner.
A single 2"x4"x10' cross brace was added between the two supports.. More will be added
later (another run to the lumber store!)
Added a 1"x2" strip along the back roof frame and a 1"x4" skirt to act as a weather
stop and also a roof stop when closing the roof. We left space for the roof skirt to get by the 4"x4" post
2003 September 13
Walk around with the Observatory Roof Open
Walk around with the Observatory Roof Closed
2003 September 15
Big huge thunderstorm rolled through. The roof stayed on but a little water came in from one
side on the floor and a little drip from the roof. Ran an outdoor 110vac
16/3 extention cord out to the observatory from a GFCI outlet.
2003 September 16
Found some $0.49/ft^2 indoor/outdoor carpeting and bought a chunk of 8'x12' (it
only sold in lengths of 12'), had them cut it down to 8'x10' and took it home
and installed it. Cutting around the piers was not nearly so bad as I thought,
and neither was trimming it down to size around the sides. Boy is that Chipmunk
going to be surprised the next time he tries to get in!
We added some eyebolts to the end of the cross piece at the end of the runners
to hold flower baskets (must keep the observatory looking nice!) and
did some more sanding of the runners.
Ran a surface power cord out to the observatory with the intention of burying it
before the ground freezes. Running a data cable out (or several, actually)
is more problematic as it must be at least 10-20 cm away from the 110VAC power cable
to avoid RFI and other interference and noise. So we are starting to think wireless
networking... will check out prices, performance and ranges and see what happens.
2003 October 08
added outdoor caulking to many of the wood joints, cut two 4" holes in the southeast
and northwest roof gables and inserted in a screened vent to allow hot air to
escape better. Caulked around the vents as well.
varathaned outdoor track
2003 October 13
Big Windstorm blew roof off the night of Oct 11
2003 November 13
Took roof off and apart about 1/2 way. patched holes and used a lot of silicon sealant
to try and make the roof relatively waterproof again
2003 November 22
Replaced the northern roof 1x4 skirt with 2x4 skirt, added east end blocks
so that when the roof closes, the eastern end locks under some new wooden pieces
designed to hold the roof down. The whole keep-the-roof-safe idea
depends on the two pins inside not allowing the roof to roll open, out of the
holddown locks. Added four more teflon pades for the roof to ride on, at each
The roof is held down at the back by some pieces of wood attached to the internal
frame, in an inverted "L" shape, so that when the roof closes, the trailing edge of the
roof frame slides underneath these inverted "L"s, preventing the roof from lifting.
The "Front" of the roof is tied down at the moment to the internal frame.
There are two 2"x2" pieces of wood (sanded down to remove the harsh sharp corners)
mounted to the roof to act as a push bar to open and close the roof. So
far they are working great.
To open the observatory from the inside, untie any tiedowns, and push on the
push bars for about five feet. Then duck under the roof and continue to push it from the outside
until it runs up against the internal stops.
To close the observatory, pull on the large metal handle for a few feet,
then duck under the roof and inside and push on the push bar until the roof is fully closed.
The end points of the 2"x6" runners were cut round to reduce the number
of head injuries due to tall people running into them.
The 2"x6" runners were sanded down with #80 and #150 sandpaper to
smooth them out and help the roof move better. The top sides were also sanded down
as we added the older smaller teflon pads to the inside edges
of the 1"x4" skirts on both sides.
The front end of the 2"x6" runners were cut out to fit under the 1"x4" wall runner
and then screwed into it as well. Then 4" screws connected the inside 2"x4" frame
post to the 2"x6" through the shed wall. It's solid!
The front roof skirt could not use wood but needed something flexible
so when the roof moved, it would drag overtop of the wall. We used a 4" wide
garage door weather stripping that was 9' long (as long as we could find). We
screwed that onto the 1"x2" external roof frame nailer and it reached most of the way.
It did have a tendency to get caught under the roof rollway, so it got trimmed a little.
First Light is planned for the first night without clouds! Funny how the
clouds start showing up when the observatory is nearing completion and is
A few items left to attend to, including:
See how the teflon pads are wearing and consider adding a formica material
on the top surface of the runners to reduce friction and wear
Bury power line out to the observatory (110vac)
Run data lines out to the observatory (telephone, network, sound)
Add in a red LED clock and thermometer
Long Term Items:
install all sky camera on pier near the observatory
install a low end computer into the observatory to run both the
and the FM radio meteor detection systems
Canadian Tire Metal 8'x10' shed $400 (on sale!)
two 4"x4" x8' PT posts $10 each
two deck blocks $7 ea
two 2"x6"x8' runners
six 2"x4"x8' internal framing posts
one 2"x4"x10' internal framing brace $5 ea
three 2"x4"x10' PT external runner cross bracing $6 ea
six 1"x2"x8' strips for external roof frame nailers
five 1"x4"x8' external roof skirts
one 9' garage weather stripping $13
two 2"x2"x8' internal roof frame support $2 ea
two soffet vents (circular, 4inch) $4 ea
The observing deck cost is not included here as you could have assembled all
of this on bare ground and perhaps pour gravel as a flooring material
8pack teflon pads/glides with metal base, screw and sticky base $8
screws - a large assortment of 1", 1.5", 2", 2.5" and 3" screws.
#80 and #150 sandpaper
eight 2" metal L braces - use where necessary
6" zinc handle $5
indoor/outdoor carpeting 8'x10' (acutually 8'x12' and cut down) $48
and double sided carpet tape $10 total $60
silicon exterior clear caulking $4
Approximate total cost $600-700
Power tools: jigsaw, mitre saw, circular saw, drill, palm sander
6' stepladder, two work tables
assortment of robertson screwdrivers, chisels, hammer, level, tape measures